Friday, February 22, 2008

Report credit card loss at earliest to the bank’s helpline

Recently Delhi's Nishi Uttam lost her wallet, which carried an ABN AMRO Bank debit card, was stolen at a shopping mall. It took her 15 minutes to figure out how to report the loss to the bank's helpline. Uttam informed unfortunately, during this pro tem period, the card was fraudulently used by a man to buy jewellery worth Rs 36,000. Hence she filed an FIR with the police, too.

She said, "The cashier (at the jewellery shop) accepted that the man was in a great hurry," he did not match the signature as he said many come in with their wives and mothers' cards to shop. Moreover it seems the fraudster didn't wait to fill any papers such as the guarantee card, which is the usual practice at jewellery stores. In a written statement, ABN AMRO Bank explains its stand on such cases: "...if the transactions have been made prior to reporting of the loss to the bank, then the liability rests with the customer to whom the card has been issued. This is as per the terms and conditions under which the card is issued.” "Typically, banks tread this line in such cases, even as a senior Delhi banker concedes it would well take "10-15 minutes to run and report a loss complaint".

All banks told TOI spoke, that till the consumer reports card loss, its use is the consumer's liability. This liability ends the moment he calls up the bank to block the card. However Sanjeev Talwar of Delhi's National Consumer Helpline said there are cases where banks have failed to block a card despite being told to do so. To top it, says Talwar, in case of card fraud, a consumer cannot use the banking ombudsman's channel. An FIR must be filed. An official in the Ombudsman's office says, "If a card is misused before its loss is reported, the liability lies with the cardholder. In such cases, we cannot help the complainant. Normally we encourage them to file an FIR."

Some banks TOI spoke to, though, assured consumers that they do investigate cases of fraud before a card is blocked. Sachin Khandelwal, head cards group at ICICI Bank said, "We give a chance to the customer to prove his innocence. We get the verification done. "Parag Rao, head-cards at HDFC Bank, too says: "Our risk investigation team does necessary investigation." And R L Prasad, head-cards at Standard Chartered Bank, says: "Based on relationship grounds, previous history and track record, we do take a sympathetic view... We do verify."

However, the Delhi banker says this is a subjective manner of dealing with fraud cases. "There are no uniform guidelines on this subject”. Though, Banks on their part also have a system of checks in place to avoid frauds. As matter reported earlier, banks' risk management systems highlight transactions that are out of character with the cardholder's usage pattern. The consumer can expect a call or an SMS to verify whether a particular— and especially a high-value—transaction is valid. Yet, there are times when such communication gets delayed or even fails, and a consumer ends up losing precious time.

To avoid the worst, a senior banker—who himself had his card stolen some time ago—gave a practical advice to consumers: Save both the card and helpline numbers on your cell phone. This helps them report the loss, if any, as soon as possible. "I myself could phone the bank in half a minute of the loss."

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